Intimate witnessing: Volunteer testimonies of everyday border violence

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Abstract

In this paper, we center the witnessing repertoires of grassroots volunteers and explore the ways in which they bear witness to and condemn the border violence experienced by illegalized migrants across Europe. Drawing on long-term research of volunteer solidarity structures across Greece and in Paris, our analysis of witnessing uses the ‘intimate’ as a conceptual framing across three intersections of analysis. First, we locate the ‘intimate’ in volunteers’ embodied presence in migrant spaces, where important relations of care between volunteers and migrants emerge based on physical and emotional proximity. Second, we unpack how intimate mourning over migrant incarceration and death are publicly evoked, in the affective and emotive authorship of events to which volunteers bear witness. Finally, we reflect on the multiple political potentialities of intimate witnessing, not only as an alternative to traditional modalities of humanitarian witnessing, but as a radical confrontation against racialized logics that underpin Europe’s bordering apparatus. Bringing together literature on feminist geopolitics, humanitarian witnessing, and volunteer-refugee solidarities, we argue that the distinct repertoires of ‘intimate witnessing’ are paramount to solidarity, whereby volunteers render visible the mundane violence and indignities illegalized migrants face across Europe.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEnvironment and Planning C: Politics and Space
Early online date24 Feb 2024
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 24 Feb 2024

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